Tuesday 9 December 2008

Panic mode, activated

Oy. My defense is tomorrow. At 10 in the morning. I should be weeping or something now shouldn't I? For once, my desperation is quiet and I would like to celebrate that quietness with a short blog post. The last pre-defense blog post I will ever write!

So, I've got two books to very briefly review here. The first is Barb and J.C. Hendee's vampire extravaganza Dhampir. A dhampir is, according to Balkan legend, the offspring of a vampiric dad and a human (and I would assume doomed) mom. They're also known to sometimes hunt their full vampire cousins.

It may be best for everyone if you don't ask why I already had Dhampir in my possession, well before Darren instructed me to read fluff in preparation for this week's ordeal. But already have it I did and it wins the award for fluffiest book in my collection (soon to be in my bookstore's collection).

I have to say, this was exactly the right book to be reading in the lead-up to tomorrow's festivities. It was light, it was action-packed, and it was all story and luckily, the writing was no impediment. The writing was just fine, which was more than I was expecting. And because fantasy writers just can't stop, there are at least three more books in the Noble Dead Saga for me to soothe my weary brain with in the future.

The second book to discuss, which I read in its entirety during my train ride to Kingston this afternoon, was David Almond's Skellig (which, yes, I read entirely on David Maybury's recommendation).

Fellow babies, that's a good book. If you have kids, get yer butt to the bookstore and buy it for them for Festivus. If this book had existed when I was a sprog it might have been my favourite book of all time. Poor Bambi might have been the runner-up.

As an adult, it made me feel just a little bit emotionally manipulated but I didn't care because it was so good. If you like children's lit, just trust me and go get it for yourself!

I heart books.

Tomorrow morning I have to talk about the worst never-to-be-published book ever written: my thesis. I've been given some great advice on how to handle tough questions and these are my three favourites, in no particular order:

1) Respond with a Cape Breton sucker punch.
2) Allow the evil leprechaun who tells me to burn things to field those questions.
3) Present obvious as though gift of Magi.

Any other suggestions are welcome.


Rohan Maitzen said...

Good luck. Remember that in most situations, academics ask about what they, not what you know ("I haven't read Romola, but I have read Tristram Shandy, so can you say a little bit about your research in the context of 18th-century experimental fiction? Before you start, let me give you some context for my question, drawing on my own current research on Tristram Shandy ..."-- really, you can substitute pretty much anything for Tristram Shandy in my example, from Judith Butler's Gender Troubles to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). So, what advice do I have? A thoughtful nod, followed by a calm redirect ("That's very interesting. In the specific context of my own research, what I have found most interesting is..." and back you go to your chosen book or theorist). This move doesn't always 'take,' but most observers know this game and will be glad you don't spend 10 minutes fumbling around trying to pretend you know something about their tedious and monomaniacal colleague's pet subject.

When that fails, I have always found witty deflection useful...

Also, at any thesis defense, the candidate is actually the most knowledgeable person in the room on the subject of the thesis. Take strength in that!

Anonymous said...

tell them you think the question is misguided. or better yet, presumptuous, as i did to my last prof.

also: good luck & godspeed!

Anonymous said...

Best of luck!


Bookphilia said...

Thanks for the good luck wishes and advice, everyone - everything went well and I passed AND I haven't been asked to make any changes save the typos (of which I discovered a horrifying amount in my final read-through).

Rohan: I actually got to use your suggested redirect technique! I owe your for your timely comment big time. I'm going to read Romola in your honour (and because a committee member suggested I would enjoy it).

Rohan Maitzen said...

Congratulations! And I'm glad my suggestion was useful.

Romola is surprisingly good--I say surprisingly, only because it has kind of a bad rep. Romola herself is a great character, and the Tito / Baldassare plot is terrific, and very intense. OK, there are some pretty laboured attempts to translate Italian idiom into English ("You are as welcome as the cheese to the macaroni" is my favourite--an Italian friend tells me there is indeed such an expression in Italian but it "works better" in the original). But bad GE is still better than most other writers at their best.